Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Holiness is about being set apart, about being different. 
The question is: set apart and different from what?

Two Ways of Life

There are two sources of wisdom: heaven and this world. We can read about this in the Letter of James. We can also read it in intuitive human knowledge since it relates to what it means to be a person. Holiness is the label for heavenly wisdom. Worldliness is the label for the wisdom of this world. Holiness is the theme of the letter of James, which describes the war between these two ways of wisdom. God's wisdom and true holiness are all about perfect love--that only moral perfection is good and that Jesus died to offer it as a gift apart from personal righteousness. Worldliness is all about moral manageability, the compromise of moral perfection. Moral compromise is the lowering of moral standards from perfection. The only reason this is done--consciously or unconsciously--is to honor human striving. 

Counterfeit Worldliness 

Worldliness is a counterfeit way of wisdom. Worldliness is counterfeit holiness. And surprisingly, worldliness declares that there is a worldliness to be avoided. It is what my culture is all about. We Christians don't have a corner on using the word worldliness. My non-Christian friends talk about avoiding it. Since worldliness is a way of thinking, and since it is manageability (rather than true holiness), it declares that moral laziness is the enemy. It declares that the conflict in life is between laziness and moral diligence. Notice that both of these are about human effort. They differ only in degree.

We Live Only in the Present Moment

We live in time in the current moment. As Christians we have our life in Christ outside of time. That life we have in Christ is real. We are called to live that life out in time in the present moment. Even when we make plans for the future, we are doing so in the present moment. Our past does affect out present, but we live in the present moment only. True holiness is thinking God's way about life in the present moment. This includes thinking about the past in a good way and thinking about the future in a good way. Proper thinking about life in the present moment honors both the individual aspects of goodness and that goodness is a seamless whole--that goodness is all or nothing. There is great freedom in embracing these two realities: 

  1. We live life in the current moment only.
  2. Goodness is all or nothing.
Do you embrace these two realities that are critical if we are to embrace God's wisdom, His holiness?

Counterfeit Holiness

Worldliness is the shepherding of behavior rather than the shepherding of the heart. Worldliness sees falsely that behavior is the point of holiness. This counterfeit holiness sees that behavior can be addressed directly. Every time you are impatient, frustrated, or angry at other people for their behavior--every time--your sinful responses are a result of embracing the worldly wisdom, the counterfeit holiness, that behavior can be addressed directly without going through the heart. 

Jesus declared that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. He then lists bad behavior and bad words. Do you agree with Jesus that the heart is the source of all bad behavior? If you agree with Jesus, then why does bad behavior distress you? Of course bad behavior is wrong, but it is only a symptom of a bad heart. Your distress is an indication that you have been tricked to focus on the fruit and not the root of the problem. The fruit simply reveals that there is a root problem in the heart that needs to be addressed. Why not deal with the root? When I had cancer, the appropriate action was to entrust the surgeon to cut out the cancer. Focusing on stopping the symptoms would have been a foolish solution. In the same way it is foolishness to deal with behavior directly. The heart is the problem and the heart of a Christian is super easy and natural to change. For a non-Christian it is a different story. 

In summary, counterfeit holiness focuses on behavior, dismisses the heart as the source of behavior, dismisses the reality that goodness is all or nothing, and seeks to address behavior (conduct) directly. 

True Holiness Brings Freedom

The Bible writers call for complete holiness now. Peter commands "As the One [Jesus] who calls you is holy, so be holy in ALL you do." (1Peter 1:15) Do you think that it is unrealistic for God to expect you to be holy in all things like Jesus was? Jesus' life reveals clearly what goodness is--total freedom from sin. If God does not expect you to live a good life in all ways, then God's expectation is not good. Let's embrace that God is always good and always expects goodness from all people. Do you notice that Peter does not command holy conduct? He is commanding us in all our conduct (thoughts, words, and actions) to be holy. Do you see the difference? The difference is critical. It is the difference between slavery and freedom. It is very simple once we notice what Peter means. 1) Holiness is a way of seeing life. 2) There are only two ways of seeing life: through eyes of perfection or manageability. 3) In the present moment, God calls us to see (discern, appreciate, honor, consider, regard, perceive, be aware of) every person and situation in the light of perfect love (perfection expected and provided at the cross). 4) Right awareness sets the heart in a good place and goodness then overflows in all directions effortlessly. (James 1:25) 5) Bad behavior is simply an indicator that the person has been distracted from awareness of perfect love. 6) The solution of a sin problem is always a restoration to a vision of perfect love (Gal 6:1). 7) In summary, each moment of life takes care of itself as the mind is set on perfect love. 

Deeply Rooted False Cultural Bias

Counterfeit holiness is deeply rooted in Western Christian culture which is rooted deeply in Roman culture. The Hebrew and Greek cultures saw that life overflowed from the heart--from the big picture understanding of life in the moment. When the Roman Empire took over from the Greeks it slowly imposed its cultural bias which dismissed the value of the mind and culture. Roman culture declared that right behavior was what was important. It also declared that people know the right things to do and are simply too weak or lazy to do what they know is right. What they need is external pressure to help them make their own right choices. This way of thinking became deeply entrenched in the West. Do you appreciate people pressuring you to make right choices?

This cultural bias suppresses the truth of what it means to be human. In the past 150 years we Westerners have begun to notice the fruit of this bias and to seek to confront it. The light is dawning and clarity is coming. We now make a distinction in child rearing between shepherding the heart and shepherding behavior. We need to apply that distinction to all of life. I ask people if they have ever been manipulated to proper behavior. All have said yes and all have said that they both did not like it and that it was not helpful.

Simple Application

Evaluate yourself. The next time you become aware of having a bad reaction toward someone, ask yourself what you are thinking about.
  1. Are you comparing that person to Jesus, the only perfect person?
  2. Are you rejoicing that the only hope in life for that person is the gift of righteousness provided at the cross?
By the way, by what authority do you think of other people in ways that are not good? 

Renew your mind. Why not simply think of people as God does? We all need to continually renew our minds to God's good vision of all people. I suggest another simple application that has many nuances.
  • When you notice someone fail, be honest and immediately talk to God about the violator saying something like, "Hey God, he shouldn't have done that, he should have been perfect." 
  • When you notice yourself fail, be honest and tell yourself something like, "Hey, that sin deserves death, good thing Jesus died the death you deserve and has taken all your condemnation." 
  • Thank God often that He is good and and expects perfection from you and all other people. Thank Him that He gives the gift of righteousness to all who rest in Christ's work on the cross. 
  • When you notice someone sin, thank God that the behavior is just a symptom and that the root problem is that the person has simply been distracted from perfect love.
  • Thank God that He has poured out His love in your heart (Rom 5:5) and has made loving others to be simple--seeing them through the eyes of perfect love. 
  • Thank God for specific riches you have in Christ. Do this also for Christians who rub you the wrong way. 

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